In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year, including French refugees from the slave revolt in Haiti. Legal importation of enslaved African was prohibited after 1808, though many were smuggled in to sell. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States. The death rate on these transatlantic voyages was high, during which one in seven travelers died. In 1875, the nation passed its first immigration law. This so-called law was also adopted by immigration lawyers in New Orleans.
According to our research, the law was named after its sponsor, Representative Horace F. Page, a Republican representing California who introduced it to "end the danger of cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women". The law technically barred immigrants considered "undesirable," defining this as a person from East Asia who was coming to the United States to be a forced laborer, any East Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. The Page Act was supposed to strengthen the ban against “coolie” laborers, by imposing a fine of up to $2,000 and maximum jail sentence of one year upon anyone who tried to bring a person from China, Japan, or any East Asian country to the United States "without their free and voluntary consent, for the purpose of holding them to a term of service".